Our ABLE team are continually learning and innovating as they seek to support children with disabilities to reach their fullest potential while being fostered or cared for in communities. Each family who cares for a child is an advocate for their child and disability care in their neighborhood. And each day our ABLE team are working with carers to give them the tools and care they need to support these children well. Our physiotherapists and technical advisers work hard to resource our Community Rehabilitation Team with the latest research, knowledge and tools to understand and support the different conditions that they see. And we are always very excited when we have opportunities to grow their specialized knowledge in an area. It is with great joy then, that we welcome Bridget as a consultant for ABLE for the remainder of this year.
The other day, the communications team sat down with Bridget to get to know her a bit more.
So Bridget, how long are you here for?
I’m in Cambodia with my family for one year. I am married and have three children aged 15, 13 and 11. We started our time in Cambodia with 10 weeks of language study so that we could manage daily life more easily and have simple conversations with our workmates and neighbours. Now I’m volunteering at CIF for the rest of the year (about 9 months).
So what caused you to bring a family with three kids all the way to Cambodia and volunteer with us here at CIF?
My family has had a lot of connections with Cambodia over the years in different ways. We have some Cambodian people in our church and friends working here. I’ve always felt that I had a lot of privileges in New Zealand and wanted to share my professional skills in a place where they could help others. I was attracted to CIF because of the way the work is led by Khmer staff, with a focus on supporting children to be included in regular families and regular communities.
We are excited to have you here, working with the ABLE team. At CIF we believe that volunteers should match their skills with the area they are volunteering in. What’s your professional background?What skills are you hoping to be able to use during your time here?
I am an Educational Psychologist. My work experience is in using a Positive Behavior Support framework to help support individuals with autism or intellectual disability to learn new skills and live well in the community. Part of that is helping with strategies to reduce unwanted or challenging behavior that gets in the way of achieving those goals.
How did you get into that role?
I was involved in a parent-led early childhood co-operative when my children were young. Through that I became interested in education for children with disabilities. That led me to go back to university and study to become an Educational Psychologist.
Bridget, you mentioned that your particular focus area is Autism. What do you enjoy most about working with children who have autism and their families?
One of the features of autism is rigid, repetitive behavior. This mean families can get quite stuck doing things a certain way all the time, because otherwise it can cause distress for their child. For example the child may insist on eating exactly the same food, prepared exactly the same way, every day. (Which they may enjoy, but can get boring for others, might not be very healthy – and if the food is not available – can cause a problem!) I really enjoy working with families and helping them to make small changes which add up to greater freedom for their child and the family over time. Helping a child and their family to have new experiences that they’ve not had the skills or confidence to try before, is very rewarding.
So in your last few months of language and culture learning, and learning about the work of CIF, what excites you about what you’ve seen so far in disability care in Cambodia?
I am so inspired by the foster parents who have chosen to provide a loving home for a child with a disability. I think they are real heroes in disability care in Cambodia.
What are you hoping to contribute to ABLE during your time here?
I’m hoping that through my time at ABLE I’ll be able to pass on some of my professional skills to the local staff team. In particular I’m hoping to help them with supporting children with autism or intellectual disabilities to learn new skills and understanding and managing challenging behaviour. Ultimately I hope that this will help these children become more fully included in their community.